9 Unique Alternative Housing Ideas

If you are looking for an alternative shelter for your property, there are many options available. I picked some of my favorite alternative housing options for consideration when planning a bug out home, storage unit or improvised shelter.

Shipping Containers

Shipping containers cost a little bit more than some of the other methods mentioned in this post, however their durability more than makes up for the cost. some amazing homes have been built out of shipping containers.




Straw Bale

Building structures using straw bales can be surprisingly affordable, and a lot more comfortable that you might think. A wide variety of structures can be created with the help of straw, everything from a small storage unit to a large family home.




http://www.strawbale.com/ (Credit for the last picture)


Pallet Home

Pallets are cheap or free in most places, so it’s no wonder they have become popular materials in alternative building. Your house won’t be a fortress, but it would certainly work for temporary survival.





Earth Berm

You don’t have to be a hobbit to have a house like one. People all over the world have utilized earth berm home building for it’s amazing cost, insulation and protection from the weather.



http://www.survival-spot.com/survival-blog/lost-middle-class-tribes-secret-eco-village-in-wales-spotted-in-aerial-photograph-taken-by-plane/ http://www.simondale.net/house/index.htm


Earth bag

Using earth bags to build a home is one of the oldest methods for creating a shelter. Dirt insulates well, is everywhere and usually won’t cost you a dime. While an earth bag structure can be very durable, they have less durability than many other types of structures.




Recycled Bottles

The green revolution has spouted several building types that would normally be ignored. The recycled bottle structure is an eco-friendly and beautifully unique type of home. And of course, the materials are very and cheap and possibly free.





Geodesic Domes

The dome has always been a powerful structure considering it’s relatively cheap cost and simple building process. The open space in domes helps air flow throughout the house, giving it a very consistent temperature. Domes are also very resistant to wind and heavy snow because of their uniform strength. You could buy or build a geodesic dome in almost no time at all.






Free Spirit Spheres

What do you get when you mix tree houses and spheres? You get one awesome looking “free spirit sphere”, aka the tree house for adults. While they’re pricey compared do a DIY project,  a free spirit sphere could be a great getaway cabin or backup housing unit.



Tree house

The kid in all of us has dreamed of having an amazing treehouse, complete with all the necessities of living. Some pretty amazing (and hidden) tree houses can be made with limited budget and training.

http://www.balewatch.com/ http://weburbanist.com/2008/02/10/10-amazing-tree-houses-from-around-the-world-sustainable-unique-and-creative-designs/


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Survival Spot is dedicated to helping everyone learn to be prepared. No matter what happens you can be ready.

62 Responses

  1. Tara

    This is a great post. I would have never thought to use some of the materials listed here, such as the bottles. I'm also glad you introduced some new great alternatives =]

  2. dormanted

    I have to admit these are some ingenious ideas. Some of the materials used, I too would never have thought of. I love these posts. I do wish that in some of the tree house posts they had shown more of the inside design.

  3. D.

    You miss the point.
    The difficulty is not in finding materials to build a home but in finding a place to put them where you won't be attacked by officialdom, road builders or pop-fans.

  4. connie

    I am seriously interested in the bottle type house… maybe a bottle greenhouse.. My husband loves beer and it wouldnt take long to build up an abundance of his beer bottles.. weekly.. can you water proof a house of bottles.. how..

    • Survivalspot

      That's classic! I bet it wouldn't take long for a lot of people to build up enough empty bottles for one.. myself included. ;) I would guess that if you sealed off the little spaces in between the bottles with some kind of clear sealant it would do the job just fine.

  5. Zombie head

    alot of these ideas would be great in the event of a zombie appocolipse :P

  6. Eric von Kleist

    Think about school busses! I have lived in one for the past 6 years while going back to college and grad school. They are similar in size to the containers, but have panoramic windows. They are easy to gut and modify to live in. Lots of school busses and ideas here: http://www.skoolie.net. You can see my bus at the Paradigm Shift link attached in the posting.

  7. Burmapez165

    Thank you Congressman Ryan. I think in the House yourself and Congressman Ron Paul are the only two, besides Congressman Kucinich who put the People first.  Please run for President! Those lifelong politicians should be listening to you – you embody people our age, I know, I’m one of them!

  8. Intelligence

    Shipping containers get really hot, the hay & earth bags are a stupid idea (Joplin; Mo., Ohio)

    <img src=http://www.csmonitor.com/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/media/images/0607-ohio-tornado-damage/8078881-1-eng-US/0607-ohio-tornado-damage_full_600.jpg>

    • practical

      Haybale houses are very well insulated, the nature of the materials ensures that, they don't get over hot and are easy to heat in the winter. The shipping containers can be insulated too, against both hot and cold, as well as having windows cut into them for air flow. Earth bag houses and the 'dugout' type again tend to be well insulated against the elements and keep an even temp. Living in NZ the only thing I would be very conscious of is what is the earthquake rating.

      • gonzolawler

        Yeah…the container idea is actually very simple to plan and can be insulated around the outer perimeter in a very cost effective manner. Those who otherwise could never afford a conventional home ….can have a home…

    • Photowalla

      Straw Bale, not Hay Bale. Hay is eaten by livestock, straw is otherwise a waste product or used for livestock bedding. My wife builds Straw Bale houses for a living. The walls are more than a foot thick of some of the best insulation that exists. Entirely natural & no off gassing. They are extremely efficient to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. The walls are plastered over with a cement plaster mix that renders them extremely strong. There are straw bale houses that are inhabited today that were built in the early 1800's. Because the bale walls are encased in a cement mix, there is very little chance of fire or pests coming in contact with the bales. We are building a container house now and of the ones we've visited, heat isn't a problem in the summer. Between airflow, insulated walls and a living roof, they can be a comfortable environment.

      • Guest

        AMEN, it shows your immaturity and questions your IQ.

  9. david

    This is so cool and inspiring. Id love to design and live in one of these some day.

  10. brearbear

    earth ships are awesome…

    i am also interested in Chinese Hakka designs…

    for retreat architecture, i suggest CEMENT TIRE BRICKS:

    1. old used tires…the outer part of the tire, where the air goes, filled with cement.
    2. once the tire brick's are "layed", like a brick, fill the inner "donut hole" part with rammed earth or more cement.
    lay several rows of bricks to make very thick walls.

    also, check out cement cloth/fabric. man carry-able sized rolls, cut to size, pour water over it, 24 hours …presto!

    sandbags are great for defense, use cement bricks/cement cloth/and sandbags together for a cheap bunker, expedient fallout shelter. check into berming.

    • Christel

      You live where there is a lot of moisture, I would begin with a rubber tire/cement foundation to avoid mold.Then carefully select materials that are" tried and true" to ward off moisture penetrating the structure. I wish i could help you! It would be a serious hoot! But I have my own "project house", what a long strange trip it's been…. Hahaha, Good luck with your dream… Christel/NV/USA

  11. pacific_waters

    One of the so called geodesic domes is not a geodesic at all. Things like this on a website lead me to believe they don't have a clue about they're talking about so why should I trust them at all?.

  12. wolfjflywheel

    the one one thing we have in eastern ky are caves and old worked out coal mines, should be great for shelter?

  13. Tha Real

    Dome homes are the best structures.. Build them the correct way with the correct materials and you can live for ever i it with out ever leaving it.

  14. cooldesignlover.tumblr.com

    Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I love the information you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get

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  15. hughonabike

    Love the container idea. I can would go for that. Brilliant solution for low cost housing. Can be beautiful as well but I can't see Governments councils and planners liking or encouraging it.

  16. Ifonly

    If only they would legalize growing hemp, hemp brick houses could be on this list.

  17. losangelesrealestate

    It's really a great post. The materials for build this house is unique. I never thought that this junk materials can be use for make any home,where anyone cab be live. It's really a great and unique idea.

  18. Sam

    These are incredible designs and ideas! Very inspiring, I love it. Keep up the good work!

  19. Martin Elks

    Overall, a nice list of alternatives housing – especially those tree houses. I'm not too keen on the straw bale houses though. It's all to easy to accidentally burn down.

  20. Waterson

    Hey friend, A lot of thanks for give us alternate housing ideas. I was searching such kind of content since long but eventually today my search is over and all thanks to you. Your blog is not only informative but constructive too. one time afresh esteem.

  21. Richard

    This is a great round-up! And such intricate architecture. Some of these designs look like they've been picked out straight from a fairy tale

  22. Catherine

    Oh Man,…
    These are one of the best ideas, about which I could hardly have think about.
    I liked watch of these housing ideas,,
    I am sorry that I can't distinguish among these to say which one would be better.
    Too good…

  23. Home Builder

    Definitely unique and very inspiring to see these ideas people have crafted for use as homes. I personally love the tree houses and the earth berm. I can see how it would cut down quite a bit on utility costs since it functions like a cave. Love it!

  24. Julie Matthewson

    Very interesting breakdown, indeed. It’s nice to have such information available in one location and some ideas for new and different directions to take to help one stand out.

  25. denver hardscape

    I would think that concrete would have difficulties sticking to the mortar since it has very little structure. But it would be exciting to listen to from someone who has designed one of these before.

  26. Off-Grid » Top 9 Unique Alternative Housing Ideas

    […] So here is a great list of ideas (with some good photos) to open your mind to some of the possibilities. The list even includes sturdy shipping containers, affordable straw bale homes and pallets, which sometimes come free in most places. If those do not interest you a bit, try earth sheltering à la Hobbit for some protection against the weather or recycled bottles to add a breath of beautiful uniqueness to your shelter. There are other options still, check them out: http://www.survival-spot.com/survival-blog/9-unique-alternative-housing-ideas […]

  27. JoeAnnett

    Hmmm … i like the tree houses but always wonder: isn't there a degree of movement in the tree (continued growth, wind, rotting) that could cause structural damage.
    wouldn't the amunt of shade fro large trees make the home too shaded?

  28. Bill Seavey

    There any many fine ideas here, and illustrated. My book, Home Dreams for Hard Times, lists 20 such ideas, although some don't have to do with building, just mortgage-free housing such as property caretaking, apartment managing etc. I have personally built a strawbale house in Mexico which you can see on my site. I've also built a geodesic dome. The book contains contact information and links so you can get started right away with whatever strikes your fancy (also the downsides dealing with building codes etc.)

  29. Thatoneguy

    I imagine he is referring to the architectural renderings, or what the building 'will look like' on site. Mostly the shipping container posts.

  30. vicky

    I have a restaurant in spain and have hundreds of wine bottles every week. do you want them?

  31. David

    fill the bottles with sand or dirt. Could do the same with plastic water bottles

  32. Photowalla

    I've been inside #6. It's called the Ecopod and I was in it at the Green Living Show in Toronto. I think that image is a rendering to show what it might look like next to your cottage, but the container exists. The deck operates like a drawbridge on a hydrolic winch. It's awesome. The creator sells them for about CDN$29k

  33. hazelmae89

    wow. that's an amazing and awesome house. I love the ideas and for sure it will be into something.
    budget how to make


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